“We’re not just a one zip-code team,” says Awan, who, like many of his teammates, pays an extra $80 a month for myriad cricket channels on cable television. He’ll stay up to 2 a.m. to watch compelling matches (South Africa is his favorite team) and each morning checks his phone app for cricket scores even before making coffee.
His face shielded by a floppy sun hat, Awan is clearly the Tigers’ leader when the team gathers for the season’s first practice in Silver Spring, a session devoted to evaluating the young players vying for a spot in the lineup. He bowls a bit, then switches to fielding, directing the spacing among his teammates facing batters from the Embassy of Pakistan.
Among the country’s better fast bowlers, hurling the hard leather cricket ball at nearly 100 mph in his prime, Awan manages a top speed of 90 mph now but happily, as in many sports, cricket-smarts improve with age.
“I think in my mind I’m still in the best shape of my life,” Awan says. “I wish I could take back the days.”
In a sense, weekend cricket transports him to those days, as it takes many Washingtonians back to childhood games in India and Pakistan. For Dodson, the memories are of Georgetown, Guyana, where as a schoolboy he dreamed of playing for the West Indies national team.
“My mother said I used to bat with her slipper as a baby,” Dodson said.
But for cricket to rise above nostalgia for a few Americans and became a genuine passion among many, it must clear multiple hurdles.
The sport’s governing body, the United States of America Cricket Association, has been fraught with infighting for years.
Pitches are scarce, as are the corporate sponsors that spend so freely in the Indian Premier League and elsewhere overseas.
Post-Sept. 11, 2001 politics have made it difficult for students from cricket-playing powers to get visas to study in the United States, crimping a potential source of talented players. And those with plans to relocate permanently face a long wait for citizenship, a requirement for being named to the U.S. national team.
Without success on an international stage or an established pipeline for cultivating homegrown bowlers and batters, it’s doubtful that cricket or shabash will become part of the American vernacular soon.
Then again, with some matches stretching eight hours or even over several days, patience is a virtue in cricket.